The Dark Side Of Positive Reinforcement

Nobody ever tells you about the dark side of positive reinforcement.

We hear all about how our horses will behave better and be happier doing so. About how willing it will make them, how they will want to work with you, about how you will be able to accomplish things you never dreamed possible in half the time. That’s all well and good but with every good thing there has to be a draw back. Doesn’t there?

There is and it’s a big one.

What happens those times when you have to work one horse and another one is left standing at the gate, alone, unloved, abandoned. Standing there calling out, pleading for some attention. Why, oh why would you do this to him. How could you leave him there in an agonized fit of jealousy and longing. Why wont you work him too?

The pain of trying to work one horse while another stands staring over the gate accusingly. He knows what you are doing. He knows that other horse is getting to work and receiving treats. The feel of eyes boring into your back as you try to concentrate is unbearable. The guilt crushing.

Then comes time to put them away. To force them back out into the pasture with their friends and free choice hay.

Not only do you have to drag the horse who has just finished working through the gate, you also have to fight your way through horses wanting to come out and work while pulling along the horse who doesn’t want to go back.

Allow them to chose when they want to work, say the positive reinforcement trainers. You’ll get more from them if you give them choice, they say. That will never work in real life! I’d never be able to do anything but work with my horses! Not that I would mind that so much but children seem to think I should pay attention to them once in awhile and everyone expects to be fed. Then there’s that silly housework stuff, nothing I want to be doing anyway. Sometimes we just have to make horses do as we say.

There comes a time when I just have to put a halter on. There’s nothing else for it.

Go ahead an buy into this positive reinforcement stuff if you will but always remember there is a dark side to the positive side.


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